“Sunday night, I got my ass kicked. It isn’t the first time, and it sure as hell won’t be the last time. But I’d-a hadda been dead if you didn’t think I was coming here to be with you tonight.” – Triple H
Considering the racket that the sold out SSE Arena made throughout the night, there were over ten-thousand here who felt the same way. Indeed, just in case you missed the memo, NXT TakeOver: London was awesome, and I was lucky enough to be there. Here is a review, ranking the eight matches we witnessed that night.
8. BULL DEMPSEY vs ELIAS SAMSON
This match was over and done with in a-minute-of-a-half, which was a real pity considering the big reaction that Dempsey got during his entry, although there was an awkward near-silence as Samson arrived. This was filmed to function as his ‘re-debut’ in front of ten-thousand fans and appear next week on NXT’s weekly show. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that this got nearly the reaction that NXT had hoped for, as Samson was on the receiving end of “You look stupid” and “You’re a hipster” chants, and as he mimed along on his guitar to his own music after his victory, cruelly this was quite the case. He’s clearly going to be billed as a gloomy and dark character, wandering along a lonely road (perhaps taking the ‘loner’ role from Baron Corbin as he gains further momentum). However, he is in serious danger of being a caricature image just as Solomon Crowe was if NXT aren’t careful, and it will probably stay that way until a match closes with that guitar going over someone’s head.
7. BARON CORBIN vs APOLLO CREWS
If I can even dare call anything a disappointment tonight, it would be this match. There was actually an awkward atmosphere as the superiority of the excitement around the opening two matches stuck out like a sore thumb. Very loud being demoted to… just loud, made the crowd seem more bored than they really were. This match wasn’t bad in the slightest, as both showed brilliant feats of strength, with Crews plummeting a long way into the ring steps over the ropes, thrown by Corbin (“You should have stayed at Ring of Honor!” Considering Uhaa Nation never wrestled at Ring of Honor, Corbin won’t be forgiven for that for a while.) Reaction was primarily “fuck you Corbin” until Corbin got a similar plummet of his own, followed by a moonsault to the outside by Crews. However, one standing moonsault from Crews, and one End of Days from Corbin later, Corbin got the pin.
6. JASON JORDAN & CHAD GABLE vs THE VAUDEVILLAINS vs THE HYPE BROS vs BLAKE AND MURPHY
“We want Gable.” So said the audience, with a massive fixation on Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. A lot. In spite of being the dark match, this was perhaps the loudest chant of the whole night. This match was such a tangle that this was very difficult to keep track of, and not only because I was so distracted by Alexa Bliss at the side of the ring (my biggest disappointment of the night was not getting to see Bliss wrestle). Even when only two men were in the ring, this was fast paced from the beginning as Simon Gotch of The Vaudevillains, and Gable would not let go of one another.
The match ended with ‘Suplex City’ as Jason Jordan clearly the ring of everybody with an array of different suplexes. More than anything, this match was a big spot fest. But then, that’s the nature of an effective dark match – building excitement, however ridiculous the outcome was. After all, that corny spot where a suicide dive leads to multiple people being knocked over? It happened twice.
The biggest disappoint didn’t come from the match itself, but the crowd. As brilliant as they were all night, it was heartbreaking to see and hear the sheer indifference for The Hype Bros. Whatever happened, Zack Ryder?
5. BAYLEY vs NIA JAX
Where Asuka vs Emma was more a wrestling showcase (more on that later), Bayley vs Nia Jax was an entertaining story-telling match. For comparison, think back to Wrestlemania 31. The first was Rollins vs Orton, and the second was Lesnar vs Reigns.
But down in the bottom half? Don’t panic everyone. The show was just that good. This was for the most part, what it was meant to be. Fans may fantasize of a stiffer match if NXT are emphasizing upon Nia Jax being a monster, especially considering some of the frighteningly savage moments between Bayley and Banks, but considering the inexperience of Jax, some had little faith in this being a classic. While it wasn’t a classic, there was no need to worry – this was awesome.
This was booked perfectly for what it was with plenty of nasty slams and drops from Jax, with Bayley having little choice but to resort primarily to holds (by which she won). Bayley didn’t suddenly spring to her feet in a ‘moves of doom’ fashion. This realistically told a story, showing that Bayley’s only choice was to tear at Jax, at least whenever just had the opportunity. A desperate Jax threw Bayley around like a ragdoll during the second half of the match. While still not nearly as accomplished as him, Jax is effectively being booked as powerful and whiney, in a similar vein to Kevin Owens.
4. SAMI ZAYN vs TYE DILLINGER
Sami Zayn is back! This could have been a showcase of Sami Zayn’s signature spots to mark his return, but whereas this could have been over in five minutes, this was given far longer. It was a brilliant idea to give Tye Dillinger a few minutes to have the upper hand over Zayn, exploiting the moment to give Dillinger a while to show of. This primarily was a beatdown by Dillinger, while Zayn found his feet (this was booked as his first match in seven months, in spite of wrestling Balor almost every day for the last week) and the second half a showcase of his signature crowd-pleasing moves (ie Blue Thunder Bomb, over the rope dive, and closing on a brutal Helluva Kick).
Adding to the charm was just how hilarious that Dillinger was, with an almost sarcastic cartwheel to tease Zayn, and brilliant reactions to the abuse that the crowd gave him. I’m interested about whether the producers will have a go at editing out the “fuck your top knot” and “top knot wanker”. In spite of the heel chants, this might just be the happiest that a crowd has been to see Dillinger, as there had been “Ten! Ten! Ten!” all night – even during Sami Zayns post-match promo. That’s why you get for mentioning that there were ten-thousand people in Wembley Arena…
3. FINN BALOR vs SAMOA JOE
However daft that Finn Balor looks, there is no denying that he is fantastic in the ring. It did feel as though there were enough teased spots throughout, such as a Super Muscle Buster from from Samoa Joe, and a ‘suicide’ Coup de Grace from Balor, that I imagine that they have another Takeover match in them to fulfill these spots. This was both a great match, and a tease of the future.
The match escalated quickly beginning with a tangle of hold, and within a couple of minutes, Joe had been dropkicked and launched out of the ring. It did feel that sometimes the beatdown on Balor was a bit long (though there was a fantastic smug minute or so where Joe changed his hold once every few seconds primarily just to show off his expertise. This was a great match.
2. ENZO AMORE & COLIN CASSADY vs DASH & DAWSON
With Bayley the champion, the ‘Daniel Bryan’ underdog-like fixture has now been given to Enzo Amore & Big Cass, who squared off with Dash & Dawson for the NXT Tag Team Championship. The challengers had the crowd wrapped around their fingers, and put on a brilliant show both in their double-teaming (in particular a huge rocket launcher onto the champions) and alone (Enzo’s DDT from the top rope and sending Dawson face first into the canvas multiple times). The crowd went ballistic when after Amore took a nasty, action packed five-minute beatdown, Big Cass got a hot tag, and came to the rescue. Dash & Dawson are brilliant heels, unleashing all the tricks in the book, even using Carmella as a human shield, before delivering a final Shatter Machine for a win.
With regards to long term bookings, the right men won, as there isn’t a hope in hell that people won’t still be shouting along word for word with Amore and Cass as they enter whether at Takeover: Dallas or beyond. It was a bit of a pity how Enzo and Cass didn’t get to win for the sake of there being a spectacular pop there. If there is one thing I left the event having learned, it’s just how many different songs there are that one can sing the words ‘Enzo Amore’ to.
Having now watched the show back, honorable mention goes to Corey Graves discussing British culture during Amore and Cass’ entrance: “They call them ‘chavs’. They’re the worst kind of people.”. I can’t decide whether this was an ingenious heel call calling them ‘chavs’ or an awkward misunderstanding in a similar vein to Michael Cole calling Newcastle a ‘small mining town’, but either, that is the best quote I’ve heard from WWE commentary all year.
1. ASUKA vs EMMA
Yes. The secondary women’s match was longer that Bayley vs Nia Jax, and the most entertaining of the night.
Even in NXT, which opened many an eye to women’s wrestling, who would have thought that this match would be of such a high quality? The secondary women’s match, which opened the show, is generally assigned to be “the three-minute one with the cheating and the hair pulling”, but was fifteen-minutes long. However, it was brilliantly entertaining, surprisingly technical, with some nasty moments from the beginning, with Emma on the receiving end of a savage hip attack against the step, only to deliver back a horrifyingly looking butterfly suplex into the corner to the victorious Asuka. After these moments, there were some desperate submissions and squashes face-first into the ring by Emma, before an attempting to frame Asuka with using a chain as weapon after the referee was knocked out, and Dana Brooke distracting the referee from Emma tapping to the Asuka Lock.
Ordinarily, moments like that might be frowned upon, but the match was so masterfully booked that it began as a very good women’s match, and evolved into personality in sheer desperation by the second half. On top of that, as the opening match of the night, we knew that those spots were exhaust from the start of the show, and that we were in for brilliant things throughout NXT Takeover: London.
How would you rank the matches that night? Leave your comments below.